OUTLINE OF THE CONFLICT
In order to understand the Mindanao conflict it is necessary to go back to the beginning of the 14th century, when arab missionaries and Chinese traders brought Islam to the primarily pagan tribes that inhabited the Philippines. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived to the Philippines and imposed Spanish rule just as Muslim missionaries were converting to Islam all the ruling families in southern Mindanao. The Spanish began a campaign to try to Christianize them, calling them contemptuously by the Spanish name of Moro. Soon began wars between the Muslim sultanates in the south and the Spanish in the north which altered with periods of uneasy peace. During those peace periods, thought, the Spanish failed to gain full control over the southern islands or to convert many of the local population to Christianity as they did elsewhere in the Philippines. The result was a country predominantly Catholic (the only one in Asia) being host to a conflict in the Mindanao region, where two thirds of the country’s Muslim and overall a quarter of the population reside.
When the United States obtained the Philippines from Spain as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States began a campaign to “civilize” and convert the Muslim peoples of Mindanao to Christianity. In 1903 the United States created a separate “Moro” province governed by the U.S. Army in Muslim Mindanao. Although the Muslim population had long resisted being called under the derisory term of “Moro,” they changed that view and adopted the term as a symbol of their identity in resistance to colonial oppression. They created a single identity of being “Moros” or Muslims residing on Mindanao and the neighboring archipelago of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. In 1946, after reconquering the Philippines from Japan during World War II, the United States granted the entire country independence. It is at this point that many trace the origins of the contemporary conflict, as the...
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